You are on page 1of 5

Islamic Jurisprudence 1 By: Ayyaz Ahmed Khan Sial

Theory of Naskh.
The revelations from Allah as found in the Qur'an touch on a variety of subjects, among them beliefs, history, tales
of the prophets, day of judgement, Paradise and Hell, and many others. Particularly important are the ahkam (legal
rulings), because they prescribe the manner of legal relationships between people, as Allah wishes them to be
While the basic message of Islam remains always the same, the legal rulings have varied throughout the ages, and
many prophets before Muhammad brought particular codes of law (shari'a) for their respective communities.
There are some texts of the Quran and the traditions which have either been totally abrogated or
their application limited or modified by subsequent texts. Many jurists hold that the abrogating and amending laws
belong to the category of interpretive laws. All the four sunni school unanimously accept the doctrine of abrogation,
though they may disagree on the details.

Meaning of abrogation or naskh
(I) Literal meaning
The Arabic words 'nasikh' and mansukh' are both derived from the same root word 'nasakha' which carries meanings
such as 'to abolish, to replace, to withdraw, to abrogate, canceling or transferring.

(II) Technical meaning
The word nasikh (an active participle) means 'the abrogating', while mansukh (passive) means 'the abrogated'. In
technical language these terms refer to certain parts of the Qur'anic revelation, which have been 'abrogated' by
Naturally the abrogated passage is the one called 'mansukh' while the abrogating one is called 'nasikh', or
“In its technical sense, it means the lifting of a legal rule through a legal evidence of a later date.”

Theory of naskh in holy Quran
The concept of naskh is a necessity in a legal system and Islamic law acknowledge it.

Qurans says:
“Whatever message (verse) we abrogate or causes to be forgotten we bring one better than it or like it.” (2: 106)
“And when we put a revelation in place of another revelation.” (16: 101)
Wisdom in Theory of Nasikh wal Mansukh
How it came about when the message of Islam was presented to the Arabs as something new, and different from
their way of life, it was introduced in stages. The Qur'an brought important changes gradually, to allow the people
to adjust to the new prescriptions. Example: There are three verses in the Qur'an concerning the drinking of wine.
Wine drinking was very widespread in pre-Islamic times and, although a social evil, highly esteemed. The three
verses which finally led to the prohibition of intoxicating substances were revealed in stages (4: 43, 2: 219; 5: 93-4).
Al-nasikh wa al-mansukh is important because it concerns the correct and exact application of the laws of Allah. It
is specifically concerned with legal revelations:

Reason for its Importance:

It is one of the important pre-conditions for explanation (tafsir) of the Qur'an.
• It is one of the important pre-conditions for understanding and application of the Islamic law
(hukm, shari'a).
• It sheds light on the historical development of the Islamic legal code.

Islamic Jurisprudence 2 By: Ayyaz Ahmed Khan Sial
• It helps to understand the immediate meaning of the ayat concerned.
• Tafsir (explanation of the Qur'an) or legal ruling is not acceptable from a person, who does not have such

Theory of naskh according to Sunnah
It is narrated by Hazrat Abdullah bin Massod that a verse revealed on Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) was
ordered to be recorded the companion wrote it on a rock table, next morning the companion saw it rubbed/cleaned,
when matter takes to prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) he replied it was repealed.

Classical theory of abrogation
The doctrine of naskh has three fold meanings in Islamic jurisprudence.

(i) Abrogation of all previous divine books by the holy Quran.

(ii) The doctrine applied to repeal the Quranic verses which were said to be blotted out of extinction, the
verses repealed. Example could be:
For abrogation of the recited (verse) together with its legal ruling:
'Hazrat A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that it had been revealed in the Holy Qur'an that ten clear
sucklings make the marriage unlawful, then it was abrogated (and substituted) by five sucklings and Allah's apostle
(may peace be upon him) died and it was before that time (found) in the Holy Qur'an (and recited by the Muslims).
[34 Muslim, II, No. 3421]

(a) Whose text and laws are both repealed.
Example of the same could be:
For abrogation of a legal ruling without the recited (verse):
O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou has paid their dowers; and those whom thy right
hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom God has assigned to thee; and daughters of thy paternal uncles and
aunts and daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts, who migrated (from Makka) with thee; and any believing
woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed her; - this only for thee and not for the
believers (at large);We know what we have appointed for them as to their wives and the captives whom their right
hands possess; - in order that there should be no difficulty for thee and God is oft-forgiving, most merciful' (33: 50).

'It is not lawful for thee (to marry more) women after this, nor to change them for (other) wives, even though their
beauty attract thee, except any thy right hand should possess (as handmaidens); and God doth watch over all things'
(33: 52).

This is one of the few very clear examples of naskh, though only concerning the Prophet specifically, since for
Muslims in general the number of wives has been restricted to four. (Sura 4:3).

(b) Where only text was repealed but the law it gave remained in existence. Example of the same could be:
For abrogation of the recited (verse) without the legal ruling:
'Abdullah bin 'Abbas reported that 'Umar bin Khattab sat on the pulpit of Allah's messenger (may peace be upon
him) and said: Verily Allah sent Muhammad (may peace be upon him) with truth and he sent down the book upon
him, and the verse of stoning was included in what was sent down to him. We recited it, retained it in our memory
and understood it. Allah's messenger (may peace be upon him) awarded the punishment of stoning to death (to the
married adulterer and adulteress) and after him, we also awarded the punishment of stoning. I am afraid that with
the lapse of time, the people (may forget it) and may say: We do not find the punishment of stoning in the book of
Allah, and thus go astray by abandoning this duty prescribed by Allah. Stoning is a duty laid down in Allah's book
for married men and women who commit adultery when proof is established, or if there is pregnancy or a
confession. [Muslim, III, No. 4194; Bukhari, VIII, No. 816.]

The punishment of stoning for adultery by married people has been retained in the sunna, while it is not included in
the Qur'an
Islamic Jurisprudence 3 By: Ayyaz Ahmed Khan Sial

(iii) Abrogation of earlier laws of the holy Quran with latter revelation.
Abrogated Verses:
According to Suyuti's Itqan there are 21 instances in the Qur'an, where a revelation has been abrogated by another.

He also indicates that there is a difference of opinion about some of these: e.g. 4: 8, 24: 58, etc, while some scholars
have attempted to reduce the number of abrogations in the Qur'an even further, by explaining the relationships
between the verses in some special ways, e.g. by pointing out that no legal abrogation is involved, or that for certain
reasons the naskh is not genuine

Shah Waliullah (d. 1759) the great Muslim scholar from India only retained the following 5 out of Suyuti's 21 cases
as genuine, reproduced hereunder:

Mansukh 2: 180 nasikh 4: 11, 12
Mansukh 2:240 nasikh 2: 234.
Mansukh 8:65 nasikh 8: 62.
Mansukh 30:50 nasikh 33: 52.
Mansukh 58: 12 nasikh 58: 13.
Kinds or types of naskh
There are two types of naskh:
(i) Explicit
(ii) Implied
(I) Explicit abrogation
(I) When the law giver has explicitly stated that a rule is abrogate such abrogation is called as explicit abrogation.
The abrogation of a law based on a particular circumstance that subsequently disappears. This is the case with the
call to patience and forgiveness during times of weakness or numerical disadvantages, during the Makkah period.
This was abrogated when fighting became obligatory, Madani period. In actual fact, this is not a case of abrogation
but a case of "being made to forget", as Allah Almighty Himself says in the case of war: "...or We cause it to be
forgotten", that is, the duty to do battle, until Muslims become stronger.
Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said I had forbidden you from storing away the sacrificial meat because of the
large crowds, you may now store it, as you wish.

(II) Implicit abrogation
When the law giver has not expressly pointed out the abrogation, but has laid down a new rule that conflicts with
an earlier rule and there is no chance of reconciling, it is called implicit abrogation.

Quran says:
“Those of you die and leave widows should bequeath for their widows a year’s maintenance without expulsion.”
It means that the woman whose husband had died has to wait for a whole year, but another verse was revealed in
this context which says.
“If any of you die and leave widows behind, they shall wait concerning themselves four months and ten days.”
This verse abrogates the earlier verse.
Types of implicit abrogation
Implicit abrogation is of two types.
(i) Total abrogation (Naskh Kulli)
Naskh is total, where it may lift the entire law and substitute another one for it.
(ii) Partial abrogation (Naskh Juzi)
Islamic Jurisprudence 4 By: Ayyaz Ahmed Khan Sial
When the law is repealed for a certain class alone, it is called partial abrogation. This is also called the overriding of
a general law by a special law.
A general law in the Quran provides penalties for all those who falsely accuse chaste woman of sexual intercourse.
It then provides a special law in the case of spouses accusing each other of unchastity. The provisions of the general
law are not applicable to spouses because the special law overrides that provision.
Abrogation and Specification
There is of course difference between abrogation and specification. By the latter is meant that one revelation
explains in more detail or according to specific circumstances how another revelation should be understood.
Sura 2:183 says 'O you who believe, fasting is prescribed to you ...'
Narrated 'Ata' that he heard Ibn 'Abbas reciting the Divine verse 'for those who can do it is a ransom, the feeding of
one that is indigent' (2:184).
Ibn 'Abbas said 'This verse is not abrogated but it is meant for old men and old women who have no strength to fast,
so they should feed one poor person for each day of fasting (instead of fasting). [Bukhari, VI, No. 32.]
It is quite clear that the second verse (2:184) does not abrogate the rule of fasting from the first verse (2:183) but
explains that in a specific case, that of weak old people, there is a way of making up for the loss of fast.
In the same way the verses concerning intoxicating drinks can be understood as specifications rather than
abrogations (see 4:43; 2:219; 5:93-4).
Conditions for abrogation
Following are the conditions for abrogation.
(i) It must have been done during the lifetime of the holy Quran (Peace Be Upon Him).
(ii) The abrogation text should be later in time.
(iii) Both text should be equivalent in authencity and meanings.
(iv) The next itself should not preclude the possibility of naskh.
(v) Both texts should be in conflict and there should be no possibility of reconciliation.
(vi) Both text must not revealed together.

Methods or rules of abrogation
(i) One text of Quran can abrogate another text.
(ii) One Sunnah can abrogate another Sunnah.
The mutawatir Sunnah can abrogate the rule in the Quran and vice verse.
A khabar wahid can abrogate another khabir wahid.
Examples of naskh from Quran and Sunnah
(I) Examples from holy Quran
One of the earlier cases of repeal of an earlier command was the directive to change the direction of the Qiblah
“Bayt al Muqdas” to “Masjid al Haram.”
“We see the turning of the face (for guidance) to the heavens now shall we turn thee to a Qiblah that shall please
thee. Turn then thy face in the direction of the sacred mosque. Wherever ye are turn your faces in that direction.” (2:

Islamic Jurisprudence 5 By: Ayyaz Ahmed Khan Sial

(II ) Example from hadith
“I have forbidden you from visiting the graves nay visit them for they remind you of the day of resurrection.”

Limitation on the doctrine of naskh.
Following are the limitation on the doctrine of naskh.
(i) Divine attributes cannot be repealed e. g. tawhid, Prophets books of Allah etc.
(ii) Moral trust sanctioned in Quran can’t be abrogated.
(iii) A provision related with the circumstances which negate the possibility of time limitation can’t be abrogate e.
g. Islamic shariah in its entirety can’t be repealed.
The Qur'an, in 2:106, refers to the concept of naskh. However, there is a difference of opinion about the extent to
which al-nasikh wa-al mansukh does in fact occur in the text of the Qur'an. The information concerning al-nasikh
wa-al mansukh must be treated with great caution as, for all reports concerning the text of the Qur'an, two
independent witnesses are required. Many of the examples which the scholars have drawn upon to illustrate this
question (and have quoted here for the same purpose) are based on one witness only. 'A'isha (R.A) alone reported
that 10 or 5 sucklings had been part of the Qur'anic recitation, and only 'Umar (R.A) reported that the 'verse of
stoning' had been included in the Qur'anic text. These legal rulings are not included in the Qur'an precisely because
they were not considered reliable, being based on one witness only. Similarly, other examples about naskh, based on
the words of Ibn 'Abbas or Mujahid alone, are to be judged by the same measure.
However, as mentioned there remain a small number of verses which, as far as can be ascertained from the internal
evidence of the Qur'an, have been superseded by other verses in the Qur'an.